Sir Alan Dawtry, who has died aged 102, survived combat in the second world war to become a leading figure in local government.
In 1956 he became the town clerk of Westminster city council (the post was later renamed chief executive, and I followed him in that job 30 years later). In 1958, he introduced the first parking meters in Britain. He played a major part in the reorganisation that resulted from the London Government Act 1963 and created the present pattern of 32 London boroughs.
In 1977 Alan negotiated the purchase of a new computer for Westminster council from the US company Sperry Rand. His acumen so impressed the Americans that they appointed him chairman of their UK subsidiary, a job that he held for nine years until 1986.
He was born in Sheffield, son of Melancthon and Kate Dawtry. After leaving King Edward VII school, he took a law degree at Sheffield University (which later conferred an honorary doctorate on him). He started his local government career before the war as a police prosecutor with Sheffield city council.
On the outset of war, Alan joined the army. In 1940 he was stranded in France by Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. Ordered to return to Britain, he made his way across country to Cherbourg. When he arrived, only one ship remained in the harbour. Alan discovered the captain dead drunk, arrested him and sailed across to Britain.
There, a fellow Yorkshireman, Iain Macleod, the future Conservative minister, served under him. Before his political career, Macleod was a professional bridge player. One night Alan refused to play cards with Macleod because he was drunk, and went to bed. Macleod emptied his revolver into Alan’s bedroom and at breakfast next morning demanded an apology from Alan for refusing to play.
Alan fought in the North African campaign. He took part in the landings in Salerno and Anzio, Italy, for which he was made MBE. In charge in Milan in April 1945, he gave the order to cut down the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci when told that they had been hung out on public display. He ended the war as a lieutenant colonel.
Alan combined charm with Yorkshire grit. He never learned to drive. Having been warned by his mother not to rush into matrimony, he married for the first time at the age of 81, to Sally Chalklin.
She survives him.